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Front Royal joins County in declaring COVID-19 Emergency



Council social distancing – it wasn’t clear if Councilmen Gillespie and Meza were present by remote hook up due to self-quarantine or to keep the suggested gathering number under 10. Royal Examiner Photos/Roger Bianchini – Royal Examiner Video/Mark Williams

Monday evening, March 23, the Front Royal Town Council met, albeit briefly, “to depart from the regular ‘Order of Business’” – don’t blink or you’ll miss the linked Royal Examiner video.

That departure was first, a unanimous vote – Gillespie and Meza by remote phone connection, though Meza late enough to initially seem to be a “no” vote – to depart from its scheduled agenda, which had included a binding second vote of approval of setting of tax rates for Fiscal Year 2021; and then approval by a 5-1 vote, Thompson dissenting, to declare “a COVID-19 Emergency Ordinance” effective immediately, and concurrently name Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick the Town’s Director of Emergency Management.

Of course, you wouldn’t have known that the interim town manager was council’s appointed pandemic emergency manager unless you perused the three-page, 28-paragraph (16 consecutive beginning with the word “Whereas”) “COVID-19 Emergency Ordinance” approved on a much briefer motion offered by Vice-Mayor Bill Sealock, seconded by Chris Holloway.

Not until paragraph 19 of the emergency ordinance is it noted that council, “hereby appoints the Town Manager, or in the absence of a town manager, the Interim Town Manager, as Director of Emergency Management for the Town, which is currently Matthew A. Tederick, Interim Town Manager.”

Above, Chief Magalis, flanked by the socially-distanced interim town manager, oversees an empty house as the meeting was about to convene; below, one citizen, former councilman, and former supervisor’s arrival took the number present, including Royal Examiner’s two-pronged media presence, from 10 to 11 – don’t tell the governor.

Having reviewed the Town Charter earlier in the day and noting that Chapter Two states that, “In a time of public danger or emergency, he (the mayor) may take command of the police, maintain order and enforce the law … subject to review by the council,” after the meeting’s adjournment we asked Mayor Gene Tewalt about Tederick’s appointment to fill that role.

“The charter does specify that the mayor does have the prerogative if there is an emergency. But this is so huge; there is so much going on that there is no way in the world I could take care of all the information. I’d have to be down here 24 x 7 to answer questions and telephone calls; whatever. Matt is here; Matt’s present during the day and during the evening hours. So, no other one is logical that’s here that could cover it other than Matt,” Tewalt observed.

“And it’s logical that if something happens to Matt, the mayor will fall in. And if something happens to the mayor, I’ll fall in,” Vice-Mayor Sealock added with a military perspective of the “next man standing” in crisis situations.

As for her dissenting vote, Letasha Thompson said it was solely based on Tederick’s lack of experience in emergency management, coupled with the workload, particularly in budget season, the interim town manager already has on his plate.

“As we got into this emergency situation, from my research as to what other municipalities were doing … I feel like it should be someone with, at least some training in emergency management, maybe not the experience – because how often do we have this kind of emergency? But at least have the education behind it. And I think Matt’s plate is beyond full at this moment, and then to have this added is just overload at this point.”

Letasha Thompson deadpans for the camera prior to meeting’s adjournment – it’s just allergies, I swear, Councilwoman …

The Emergency Director’s perspective
After the meeting, we contacted Tederick by phone and he explained his perspective on the assignment, noting that he will not be working alone, benefitting from not only the County Emergency Management team in place but a new hand he has called out of retirement, perhaps easing Thompson’s concerns to a point.

Tederick noted that with the pandemic response situation escalating at all levels across the nation, including last week’s Warren County Emergency Declaration, he had reached out to former Interim Front Royal Police Chief and Warren County Sheriff’s Office Major Bruce Hite for help.

“He’s a tremendous asset. And we’re fortunate to have money in the budget to pay for his services,” the interim town manager said of budget cuts he had made elsewhere in the existing Town budget. Tederick said Hite was hired out of the Town Administrative Office last week and would be paid out of the General Fund at a salary of $6,000 per month.

“He’s coordinating with the County Emergency Management team and the Town Police Department … Our next step is to facilitate connection with the County Emergency Services Plan because we fall under that. We had a good meeting with those involved on all levels – I feel much better today than I did yesterday,” Tederick said of pulling together help on a variety of issues he said have been keeping him up at night.

“I lay awake at night worrying that our wastewater treatment or water service won’t be able to operate up to capacity. The thing is to keep things functioning as this progresses. I’m committed to getting critical services delivered to citizens. We are cross-training Town personnel and have ID’ed backup personnel,” Tederick said of the Town looking ahead were the COVID-19 pandemic medical crisis to reach Warren County and Front Royal.

Should ‘something happen’ – County help is just a call away.

As a small-government conservative, Tederick expressed some frustration that Monday’s emergency declaration and his appointment were legally necessary to allow the Town to proceed under FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) guidelines as restrictions on public gatherings are suggested or mandated, and public access to governmental meetings may become limited. Front Royal and Warren County’s Local Emergency Declarations are not being undertaken in a vacuum.

As previously reported by Royal Examiner, according to Governor Ralph Northam’s Executive Order 53, beginning at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, all gatherings of more than 10 people are banned statewide, certain non-essential businesses are ordered closed, and all K-12 schools are closed for the remainder of the school year. However, these prohibitions do not include gatherings that involve the provision of health care or medical services, access to essential services like food banks for low-income residents; operations of the media, law enforcement agencies, or operations of government.

“Unfortunately, I understand why – it’s a very fluid environment we’re in,” Tederick said, adding, “I was advised by legal counsel that we needed the Emergency Declaration and needed an Emergency Manager or whatever it’s called, to facilitate electronic meetings. This meeting was 99% to allow that to happen.”

What “that” is, he explained, is facilitating live remote participation by, not only council members as Gary Gillespie and Jacob Meza were hooked up by Monday night, but citizens wanting to address various agenda or other issues while watching live streaming of meetings or work sessions if public attendance becomes impossible due to the Covid-19 health crisis.

It’s keeping us apart – but maybe technology can fix that, kind of …

“I can’t believe it takes an ordinance to accomplish due to FOIA,” Tederick offered, observing, “It is frustrating, these Draconian FOIA laws in a state of emergency. I have no problem with citizens calling in remotely,” Tederick said; though some citizens on the technological downside might not have problems with the concept, as much as they might in actually utilizing the technology to achieve such remote participation.

“We’re all in uncharted territory – no one planned for this; no one anticipated this. I have direction from council to move forward in any way humanly possible,” Front Royal’s new Director of Emergency Management observed of life under the threat of the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. It is a threat declared a worldwide health pandemic by the World Health Organization.

Statistical Update
As of noon Monday, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) reported 33,404 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S., as well as 400 deaths. Of those 33,404 confirmed cases, the source of exposure remains unknown or “under investigation” in 32,416 of them.

In Virginia, including the first confirmed case – or is it two? – in the six-municipality Lord Fairfax Health District Warren County is in, as of Monday the Virginia Department of Health counted 254 cases, with six deaths and 38 hospitalizations. For some perspective on case statistics, of Virginia’s population of 8.62 million, 3,697 people have been tested for COVID-19 according to VDH.

The lack of availability of testing kits has been a sore point for health officials nationwide since COVID-19 was first identified here in mid-January. Six weeks later on February 29, the CDC reported 15 confirmed cases in the U.S., an Atlantic Magazine article recently noted.

Worldwide as of March 23, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) there were 338,307 confirmed cases and 14,602 deaths attributed to COVID-19. Of those 338,307 known cases, 232,378 were confirmed in the last 15 days.

In Europe, Italy and Spain have been particularly hard hit. Early Monday, Italy had 5,476 deaths counted out of 59,138 confirmed cases, 53,255 of those cases being counted in the past 15 days. However, a later report from Al Jazeera Monday evening had Italy’s death toll up to 6,077 and its confirmed cases at 63,928. Italy’s highest single-day death count was 793 on Saturday, March 21. Spain has counted 1,720 deaths out of 28,572 cases, with 28,142 of those cases verified in the past 15 days.

And so it goes in the fourth month since COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease-2019) was identified as a new strain of Coronavirus on the move in the Hunan Province of China in December 2019, as the final year of the second decade of the 21st century approached.

See the brief meeting declaring Front Royal in a COVID-19 emergency state – don’t blink – in this Royal Examiner video:

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Local Government

Town of Front Royal is providing financial assistance to small businesses



The Town of Front Royal, administered by the Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce, will begin taking grant applications from Town businesses for financial assistance. The intent of the forgivable grant program is to provide immediate relief to Town small businesses that can demonstrate economic hardship from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The grant funds shall be used to pay outstanding Town of Front Royal utility bills in order to continue to receive essential services, the remaining grant funds may be used to pay for other expenses associated with a business interruption.

Businesses may receive grant funding between $2,500 and $20,000 depending on their 2019 gross receipts. The Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce will work in conjunction with the Town of Front Royal Finance Department and the Front Royal CARES Committee to administer the grant.

“The Town Council has been anxious to help local businesses and was prepared in April to use Town reserve funds. Fortunately, the Town has received over one million dollars in CARES Act funds to help our local small businesses and boost our economy. I would personally like to thank the Town Council, the Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce, and the Front Royal CARES Committee for all their hard work getting us to this point. I am looking forward to checks being cut in a few weeks.” said Matthew Tederick, Interim Town Manager.

Niki Foster, President of the Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce said, “The Chamber’s Vision statement is, ‘To be recognized as the leading resource for business in Front Royal-Warren County.’ That is why we are so honored to be able to not only help the Town of Front Royal administer the financial assistance grant program, but as importantly, help our local small businesses who are the backbone of our community.”

Town of Front Royal businesses interested in applying for the business recovery grants can do so now at

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Local Government

Mayor, council erupt over politicized interim town manager’s report



After being taken to the “brink” a week earlier during the County Supervisors’ 4-1/2 hour exploration of the intricacies and ethics of municipal government, things looked promising on Monday, July 27th.

A very light two-action item Front Royal Town Council agenda revolving around people GIVING the Town money or LOVE letters for display. How hard could it be, right – even with some critical citizen “Public Comments” from a riled-up Paul Gabbert and a more measured council candidate Bruce Rappaport?

That was before Matt Tederick decided to turn his Interim Town Manager’s report into a political attack on Royal Examiner Publisher and mayoral candidate Mike McCool, not present Monday, over meeting comments made two weeks earlier about the prevalence of unattended-to potholes around town.

Monday night the interim town manager found himself in a quandary, but over what – defending public works staff that had not been attacked or turning his manager’s report into a political campaign attack? Royal Examiner Photos/Roger Bianchini – Royal Examiner videos/Mark Williams

Not that there aren’t any, Tederick admitted – “It’s on me and me alone,” he commented on their presence before attempting at length to portray McCool’s July 13th comments on a lapse of timely Town attention to road infrastructure issues, into an attack on the Town’s Public Works staff.

Tederick’s report started normally as he noted posting on the Town website and various other social media and distribution sources of the application process for the Town’s $1.2 million share of the CARES Act COVID-19 Coronavirus relief funding. But after one-minute-and-43 seconds, Tederick hesitated to say he found himself in a “quandary”.

“I really struggled with what to say tonight, whether I should or should not make these comments,” the interim town manager began, continuing to say he lived by “several personal mottos” including “always speak truth to power.”

So, who was the long-time County Republican Committee chairman, officer, and power broker described favorably by fellow local Republican Committee official Amber Poe Morris earlier this year as “Front Royal’s (Donald) Trump” getting ready to speak to? I found myself wondering.

“The quandary I find myself in, is on one hand I feel strong cause to protect town citizens who have been unfairly attacked. But on the other hand, calling out a current mayor candidate and owner of a local business and newspaper is the quandary I find myself in,” Tederick said in prefacing his coming remarks.

Uh oh.
Saying he would “walk the line” Tederick began his defense of the public works department’s street maintenance crews – crews I do not recall being the target of McCool’s comments two weeks earlier a day after he said he had run through a massive pothole he feared might have damaged the undercarriage of his tiny “smart” car. It was apparently the same pothole the mayor had also hit recently, Tewalt later indicated. In fact, this reporter’s video review of McCool’s July 13 public comments indicated a critical focus on “department heads” and town administrative staff oversight of town crews and contractors for follow-up work, rather than of town staff in the field.

As Mayor Tewalt tries to stop a politically volatile staff report, he found himself at odds with a majority of council, including Letasha Thompson, Jacob Meza and Chris Holloway to the mayor’s left.

After two minutes of recitation of interdepartmental processes aimed at discrediting McCool’s road infrastructure comments, Mayor Gene Tewalt interrupted the interim town manager to say that if the public was going to be limited in the amount of time they could berate town officials, perhaps town staff should also be limited in the amount of time devoted to the personal berating of the political opponent of a sitting councilman, mayoral candidate, and fellow Tederick Warren County Republican Committee member. Chris Holloway is also on the November mayoral ballot.

Responding that he was unaware of time limitations on staff reports, Tederick continued for another 2-1/2 minutes before the mayor again tried to end what had turned into a politically-tinged report. But this time when Tewalt attempted to halt Tederick, he was set upon by several councilmen, including Letasha Thompson, Gary Gillespie, Jacob Meza and briefly Holloway, who concurred with Meza that it was the mayor, rather than Tederick who had turned the meeting into a politicized sideshow – “I’m not surprised,” Holloway said of a negative perception of Mayor Tewalt’s attempts to cut Tederick’s report short.

Above, Jacob Meza was pointedly critical of the mayor as politicizing the meeting by trying to halt the interim town manager’s explanation of why town crews were not at fault on road maintenance issues, not that anyone said they were. Below, mayoral candidate Chris Holloway concurred with Meza’s assessment Mayor Tewalt was politicizing the meeting, not the interim town manager.

The following morning after asking McCool to watch our video of Tederick, the mayor and council’s interaction over the attack on his July 13th “pothole of the day” comments, I asked our publisher for a response to what he saw, reminding him I had told him a month earlier his candidacy would make Royal Examiner, its staff and election coverage a target throughout the campaign season.

McCool replied that I was correct in recalling that his remarks had not been directed at Town work crews, but rather at administrative oversight and communications between contractors and department heads on follow-up work. – “I know, Mike, I re-watched the video this morning,” I told him, adding, “I still hold you responsible for the hellish situation I find myself in as a reporter. – You know, it’ll be my reporting next meeting that is somebody’s ‘quandary’ for comment.

Who’s next – Mike McCool approaches the podium to discuss road maintenance issues on July 13, as reporter scribbles away old school at improvised press table about whatever the previous speaker was talking about.

As for his reply to Monday’s political developments, McCool said, “It seems Mr. Tederick is up to his political tricks and negativity. When I made the comments at the Town Council meeting two weeks ago, Mr. Tederick called my comments ‘absolutely false’. Are they? Mr. Tederick emailed me the next morning asking for the addresses of the potholes and the site of the curb and gutter issues. He said he wanted to address the problem and get them taken care of ASAP.

“And Mr. Tederick told me after the meeting that the Town had seven contractors doing this work, and they were inspecting the jobs, but one contractor had been doing such a poor job, most of which had to be redone, that the inspector was spending all his time with this one contractor. I noticed he didn’t mention any of this in the Town Manager’s report on the 27th.”

McCool added that people could judge for themselves what happened last night from watching the meeting video of the political turn in Tederick’s report and the contrasting reactions to it. In the first video we’ve edited his actual comments to council on July 13 and Tederick’s report which pivots toward McCool, as well as the mayor-manager and mayor-council sparring over the political turn the meeting had taken.

The second video is the entire Town Council meeting of July 27th.

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Local Government

Murray asks for ‘LOVE’ correction, and gives some LOVE to the departing county administrator



Former Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dan Murray, who did not run for re-election to his North River District seat last year, paid a visit to his old Warren County Government Center stomping grounds on Tuesday night, July 21st – but it wasn’t just a polite social call to see how things were going.

In fact, in two visits to the podium, Murray had some pointed words for his three first-term successors, Walt Mabe, Cheryl Cullers, and his old district’s Delores Oates. First, Murray chastised the chair and his colleagues for not correcting past board meeting misstatements indicating that the previous board which Murray chaired had authorized the LOVE sign under consideration for placement at the Route 340/522 intersection with Guard Hill Road.

“I’d like a retraction on that because this goes out to the public, and they don’t know what the real truth is. – So, let’s give them the real truth, thank you,” Murray concluded in a brief visit to the public speakers’ podium during consideration of the LOVE sign.

Contacted later, Murray explained that while he was chairman in his last term the LOVE sign had been before the County Planning Commission, never being forwarded to the supervisors for a final vote up or down.

Vice-Chair Cheryl Cullers responded to Murray by noting that at a subsequent meeting she had apologized for the incorrect allusion to previous board approval of the LOVE sign project.

“Because I was under the impression that no projects went through without board approval and I knew it hadn’t come before us. So, that was a wrong assumption on my part and I do apologize, and I will apologize to you personally,” Cullers said, drawing a “Thank you” from the former chairman.

“I was wrong and if I’m wrong I will admit it,” Cullers added to conclude the matter.

About an hour-and-a-half later with its nearly 4-1/2 hour open meeting headed to a conclusion, Murray revisited the podium to say goodbye to County Administrator Doug Stanley, who as previously reported, has reached an “Involuntary Separation Agreement” with the current board to leave the county administrator’s positions he has held for the entire 20 years of this century, out of his quarter-century of service to the county government.

Following Rick Novak to the podium after the Royal Cinemas owner also acknowledged Stanley’s decades of service to the County and community – “What we’ve accomplished in this county in that time period, through some of your efforts and a lot of other people’s efforts, is amazing,” Novak began, adding, “Warren County, even the EDA believe it or not,” Novak said referencing pre-financial scandal years and efforts under executive directors prior to Jennifer McDonald, “was the envy of the state for many years for all the things we got accomplished here. And Doug, you were a huge part of that. There are things this board will never know, the places in this community he has touched as a Rotarian, and you will be missed,” Novak concluded drawing applause from some of the hearty remaining crowd at 11:15 p.m.

Though not signed up to speak, Murray, Stanley’s former boss as board chairman, asked permission to return to the podium, which Chairman Mabe granted.

“Mr. Chairman, I come before you, your board and staff with a heavy heart. We are losing so much institutional knowledge and you don’t realize what we’re losing,” Murray began asking if he could approach the county administrator at his position on the dais, also granted by the chair, as Murray continued with rising emotion.

“I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for this community. You are a cornerstone that’s not appreciated. Doug, I found you to be amongst the best of the best,” Murray continued with a phrase from his military service.

See Murray’s heartfelt farewell to the only administrator this county has known through the first 20 years of the third millennium of the Gregorian Calendar in the Royal Examiner meeting video, as well as Murray and his former colleague Richard Traczyk’s stinging appraisal of the new board majority’s motivation in seeking Stanley’s “involuntary” separation from the Warren County government.

“And he (Traczyk) said please mention my name, that I agree with this: That it’s a shame to pay back election promises this way having not even worked with you (Stanley) for a full year,” Murray said before continuing to describe what he found to be a perhaps over-dedicated public employee during his tenure as a supervisor.

In the wake of the EDA financial scandal erupting through 2019, the newly-elected board majority generally campaigned on an “end of business as usual” platform seen by many as a major contributing factor in the evolution of that alleged in dueling civil litigations $20-million-plus financial misappropriation of EDA and municipal resources during the EDA executive directorship of Jennifer McDonald.

Stanley’s lengthy tenure as county administrator was perceived by some as a key element of “business as usual” here.

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Local Government

UPDATE: Back from the brink – supervisors save most interesting discussion for last



Just when suicide seems like a viable option to extricate yourself from a time/space loop of consideration of municipal government minutiae that you see no way out of, the unexpected pulls you back – to life, to the makings of a good story.

That was the case Tuesday evening, just over three-and-a-half hours into a meeting characterized by the “Nothing is Easy” perspective that seems to have overtaken the Warren County Board of Supervisors recently. Delayed for action Tuesday were, not only a vote on allocation of the $2.1 million County share of federal CARES Act Coronavirus relief funding due to the absence of Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator Rick Farrall (correction: Farrall was absent due to the item being pulled from agenda by chairman due to the need for additional information on allocation process being developed), but also the rather routine approval of the minutes of previous meetings. Well, there were a lot of them – three regular meetings dating back to mid-May, three special meetings, and a May work session – “a lot of reading” as Chairman Walt Mabe pointed out.

But 3-1/2 hours later, long gone were general topics of public interest on recognitions of service to the Warren County Sheriff’s Office and updates on Samuels Library operations during the COVID-19 pandemic emergency response.

Also gone were potential lead stories:

  • on the fate of a long-planned promotional LOVE sign designed to piggy-back Virginia communities on the half-century-plus success of the “Virginia is for Lovers” tourism promotional slogan acknowledged as one of the Top 10 marketing campaigns of any kind (keep it alive but explore alternate designs, locations and funding options);
  • of a possible border war with Clarke County over a centuries-old surveying anomaly leading to a needed boundary adjustment (approve the changed boundaries as did Clarke County earlier in the day to correct the situation);
  • or proper lighting, shrubbery, parking and positive movement on development of a Department of Game and Inland Fisheries overseen Morgan’s Ford Shenandoah River-side boat landing property (keep the project moving forward so as not to lose DuPont environmental settlement funding, but at reduced costs with less lighting and less shrubbery – “shrubbery”, is there a Monty Python script developing here?).

By 8:43 p.m., one-hour-and-43 minutes in, the meeting had settled into a mind-numbing series of Conditional Use Permit requests for private-use campground property additions; for short-term tourist rentals; and ordinance amendments controlling how many dead, unusable, untagged vehicles or recreational vehicles may be kept on residential properties; and how flags and signs can or cannot be regulated in the wake of a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on publicly displayed content.

After an hour of this drier side of municipal business, first, the LOVE sign issue came before the board seeing a 6 for, 2 against, 2 in the middle public split. Following a revisiting of early agenda board and staff, reports pushed back by other business and the 7:30 p.m. start of the eight public hearings, an agenda item added at the meeting’s outset by Happy Creek Supervisor Tony Carter, one of two still-sitting incumbents (with Archie Fox) whose seats have not yet come up for election, post-EDA financial scandal.

Reservation of whose rights?

That item was board consideration and a vote of “formal approval” of a renegotiated “Reservation of Rights Agreement” with the Front Royal Town Council. As Royal Examiner has reported, that agreement negotiated informally between Supervisors Cullers and Oates and Council members Lori Cockrell and Chris Holloway was an attempt to have the Front Royal Town Council agree to assume payment responsibility for its Economic Development Authority-financed new Town Police Station headquarters in the new fiscal year.

That the negotiated and renegotiated agreement not quite achieving that goal – the Town has agreed to a one-time, recoverable, half-interest payment of $10,528.95 – had been accomplished by Cullers and Oates without his, and perhaps other supervisors’ knowledge, led Happy Creek Supervisor Tony Carter to inquire as to the nature and advisability of his involved colleagues’ negotiating process, without the formal endorsement of the entire board.

That 35-minute, sometimes confrontational, discussion involving, not only board members, but County Attorney Jason Ham, EDA Board Chairman and soon-to-be Interim County Administrator Ed Daley, will be explored in a related story “Two supervisors questioned about ‘back channel’ dealings with Town on EDA issues” and attached video segment.

See the Morgan’s Ford Boat Landing, the public comment section, boundary adjustment,  and the LOVE sign discussion and tabling vote in these Royal Examiner videos:

Warren County Board of Supervisors Meeting – Morgan Fords Public Hearing – July 21, 2020

Warren County Board of Supervisors Meeting – Public Comments – July 21, 2020  – (The Public Comment video has been updated to include both sections of public comments presented at the BOS meeting.)

Warren County Board of Supervisors Meeting – July 21, 2020 – LOVEworks Sign Project

Warren County Board of Supervisors Meeting – July 21, 2020 – Boundary Line Adjustment between Warren and Clarke Counties

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Local Government

Sheriff Butler recognizes outstanding contributions to his department and the community



At the July 21st Warren County Board of Supervisors meeting, Sheriff Mark Butler presented several officers, administrative staff, and County support personnel with special recognitions for their service to the community and department.

Singled out for Outstanding Support Awards were County Transportation Department personnel Aaron Mitchell and Jeremy Smith for work on department vehicles; Deputies Terry Fritts and Anthony Stevens and Investigator Jeremy Seabright with Outstanding Service Awards; though absent, Deputy Cindy Burke with a Community Policing Medal; Deputies Christopher Anderson and Chad Ruckman with lifesaving medals – that’s an important one; and Major Jeffrey Driskill and Lieutenants Charles Brogan and Robert Mumaw with Distinguished Service Medals.

See Sheriff Butler elaborate on these employees’ service and contributions to his department and our community in this Royal Examiner video:

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EDA in Focus

Two supervisors questioned about ‘back channel’ dealings with Town on EDA issues



On Tuesday, July 21, Happy Creek Supervisor Tony Carter’s call to add board discussion and a vote of “formal approval” of an informally negotiated “Reservation of Rights Agreement” with the Front Royal Town Council led to the evening’s most surprising and most contentious discussion.

During that discussion, Carter asked if informal County “Reservation of Rights” negotiators Delores Oates and Cheryl Cullers should be made an official board committee. When County Administrator Doug Stanley noted that once formed as a formal municipal committee, further meetings would require public notice of, and minutes to be taken at future meetings.

‘I would like to disagree with that,’ Cullers said of Carter’s formalized committee idea, adding, ‘simply because I feel like we’re making some headway – not that I’m trying not to be transparent.’ Royal Examiner Photos/Roger Bianchini – Royal Examiner Video/Mark Williams

“I know, that was my intent,” Carter replied, indicating he thought a formal committee a better path than the undocumented, unsupervised way those unofficial meetings between Cullers and Oates and Lori Cockrell and Chis Holloway on the Town side were being conducted. Carter called the meetings similar to the Town-County Liaison Committee meetings, which are formal and documented. Perhaps oddly or not, the Reservation of Rights Agreement discussion was NOT part of last week’s Liaison Committee meeting agenda.

“I think everybody wants to be transparent. And it seems like that would be the best way to be transparent – notify the media, notify the public about having these discussions,” Carter said of formalizing such an important matter involving the County, Town, and EDA.

However, Cullers and Oates countered that their un-monitored meetings with the Town representatives were being made in good faith to move a stagnated process forward.

“I would like to disagree with that,” Culler said of Carter’s formalized committee idea, adding, “simply because I feel like we’re making some headway – not that I’m trying not to be transparent. But at some point, you have to sit down with people in a room, shut the door and get down to business without too many people in the room. I think the Reservation of Rights that we came to here is a step in that direction. I don’t know if we would have got there if we had more people in the room.”

“I understand what you’re saying, that you prefer to conduct public business without the public,” Carter retorted of Cullers’ rationale for continuing her and Oates meetings as they have thus far been conducted without public and media scrutiny.

As previously reported, the original “Reservation of Rights Agreement” was a late June, Town-drafted quasi-legal document agreeing to a one-time, recoverable $10,528.95 payment covering half the $21,102 interest-only July payment on the new Front Royal Police Headquarters debt service. The agreement was first revealed during a June 30 Town Special Meeting called to approve the initial draft. However, due to excessive conditional language included in that document, first EDA officials who were being asked to sign off on the agreement they had no previous knowledge of, and then apparently County officials as well, rejected moving forward with it.

Last week a revised and severely paired back, one paragraph “Reservation of Rights Agreement” was brought forward by North River District Supervisor Oates and Board Vice-Chair Cullers for reconsideration by the supervisors. While the intent remained the same, a one-month, recoverable half-interest Town payment on the July FRPD debt service that the Town was admitting no obligation to make, virtually all the excessive verbiage that would have had the EDA and County signing a document stating the Town has “no legal or moral obligation” to pay for its EDA-financed police station and preventing any future EDA or County use of the payment and its documentation in court or “any forum” was gone.

It was replaced with the Town’s acknowledgment that the payment was being made “with no admission of obligation and reserving all rights to continue to contest this and other matters in pending litigation between the Town and EDA. The EDA accepts this payment acknowledging this reservation of rights.” See Royal Examiner’s coverage of evolution of the draft proposals in previous stories “Legal questions surround Town offer of one-time, recoverable FRPD payment” and “Pared back FRPD payment ‘Reservation of Rights Agreement’ revealed by County”.

As for the asserted “good faith” aspect of the secretive Reservation of Rights Agreement discussion, Carter said, as EDA Board Chairman Daley would soon agree to during his comments on the matter, “Wouldn’t it be good faith if the Town paid their obligations? Wouldn’t it be good faith if the Town, County, and EDA worked together, instead of against each other in legal procedures?”

Both Cullers and Oates responded that was their ultimate goal, adding that the non-publicly acknowledged meetings allowed the conversation to be undertaken “without the undermining going on”. Contacted later, Cullers said that was not a reference to any media coverage of Town-County issues.

Carter continued his “show of good faith” questions, asking, “Is it a show of good faith that the Town is starting its own EDA, thus duplicating costs to the town taxpayers, instead of working together? After all, most of the EDA projects are located in the town.”

Carter also questioned the advisability of the supervisors as the county’s governing body, signing off on a document that Oates admitted had not been what she and Cullers had hoped to achieve on behalf of the County and EDA, which was the full July payment acknowledging the bank-financed 3% interest rate on the FRPD debt service.

Part of the Town of Front Royal’s $20-million-plus civil litigation against the EDA is the claim it was promised a 1.5%, 30-year debt service interest rate on the FRPD project by former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald.

EDA Board Chairman Daley provides details to the Board of Supervisors regarding the FRPD project.

Called to the podium to comment for the EDA Tuesday night, still EDA Board Chairman Daley told the supervisors the EDA has documentation dating to 2017 and 2018 indicating the Town knew the FRPD project interest rate would be no lower than 3%.

Daley also was fairly pointed in indicating to the supervisors that he believed the Town was not dealing in good faith with the EDA regarding any financial issues. He observed that Town legal attacks or refusals to meet financial obligations with the EDA were also attacks on the County since the County has taken on sole financial responsibility in support of the EDA.

Following the 35-minute far-ranging, sometimes pointed conversation, on a motion by Carter, seconded by Fox, the board voted 4-1 to table action on the Reservation of Rights Agreement. Oates cast the lone negative vote. After a long pause when her name was called for the roll call vote, Cullers voted with the majority to table.

See all the drama of your local government in action, including discussion with County Attorney Jason Ham on the advisability of formal versus informal meetings of this magnitude, Chairman Mabe’s observations in the middle of the debate, and Daley’s full observation from the EDA perspective in this Royal Examiner video segment:

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